In addition to conferring 513 degrees to students on Saturday, May 7, the Methodist affiliated, University of Evansville honored Superintendent Minister at Wesley's Chapel and House of Lords member, Rev. Leslie Griffiths, PhD, with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
"Conferring honorary degrees is an important commencement ceremony tradition at UE,” said University Chaplain, Tamara Gieselman, "and Lord Griffiths' achievements are outstanding examples of what we hope our students will strive to accomplish as they live out their dreams in a global society and seek to influence the world in positive ways. Honoring distinguished individuals who have made outstanding contributions in diverse fields inspires all of us, but especially our graduates who are now ready to make a contribution to the world by using their gifts and graces professionally.”
Leslie Griffiths is the Superintendent Minister of Wesley’s Chapel, the mother church of World Methodism in London, England; he is also a member of Parliament, House of Lords, Labour Party, receiving a Life Peerage in 1994. The University of Evansville and Lord Griffiths began their collaboration in 2012 when University Chaplain, Tamara Gieselman, taught a summer course at UE's British campus, Harlaxton College. Griffiths provided resources for Gieselman's course and connected Gieselman with key religious leaders in Britain. In subsequent summer courses, including 2016, Griffiths has led religion and politics seminars for UE students, contributed to the experiential learning components in various courses, and served as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue in England, all of which have contributed to students' learning outcomes during their summer course work. In 2013, Lord Griffiths was invited to serve as the University of Evansville's 159th Founders Day speaker and theologian-in-residence. While at UE, Griffiths gave lectures in the Law, Politics, and Society department, participated in a community-wide talk-back session at the Old National Bank, and spoke with local United Methodist clergy in a round-table discussion. The University of Evansville values the connection with Wesley's Chapel and Lord Griffiths and are considering other innovative ways to strengthen the Methodist connection across the pond.
His story begins in real poverty in South Wales and leads him to Haiti to work with some of the poorest people on earth. He experienced liberation theology before it had been articulated and was the biographer of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Roman Catholic priest and liberation theologian who became Haiti’s president. Griffiths has spoken extensively on various educational and social subjects, including euthanasia, the church and civic society, the relationship between Christianity and other faiths, and international affairs, including the
complex world of international finance. “The foundation of my awareness of, and involvement in, international affairs was laid in the period I lived in Haiti, 1970-1980,” he notes.
Griffiths became a local preacher in the Methodist Church of Great Britain in 1963 and earned a Master of Arts in theology at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, in 1969. In 1987 Griffiths earned a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has served as president of the Methodist Conference in Britain, and the chair of the College of Preachers.
Griffiths has written numerous books on religious and historical themes; and his riveting and intense autobiography, "A View from the Edge," was published in 2012.
Leslie Griffiths began his professional life as a University Professor, teaching Medieval English in one of the colleges of the University of Wales. He always considers his first discipline (and passion) to be literature. He holds degrees from the Universities of Wales (B.A.), Cambridge (M.A.) and London (Ph.D.) in literature, theology and history respectively. He has written seven books on a range of issues and themes – international relations, Caribbean history, popular culture and biography. His autobiography “A View from the Edge” was published in 2010.
His decision to become a Methodist minister led to a ten-year stint serving the Church in Haiti where he was ordained and where two of his children were born. His interest in Haitian politics, literature, history, and culture has remained unabated and he is widely recognized for his expertise in these disciplines. He is married to Margaret, a very remarkable person and the anchor of his fast-moving life. Leslie and Margaret’s third child was born in England after their time in Haiti ended. Griffiths has remained in or near London ever since, serving as a pastor in four different appointments. He is currently the Superintendent Minister at Wesley’s Chapel, the “mother church” of world Methodism, a center of pilgrimage with a fast-growing multicultural congregation.
He has undertaken extensive pieces of work in the field of education – being recently the heart of the creation of the ecumenical University of Roehampton (London) and currently chairing the Board, which manages two inner city High Schools. For thirty years he has exercised a radio ministry with the BBC and Premier Christian radio. He is President of the Boys’ Brigade, a national Christian youth organization, and also Patron or President of half a dozen charities.
In 2004 he was appointed to the House of Lords in the British parliament where he sits with the Labour Party. He is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, of Harris-Manchester College Oxford and a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. He holds honorary fellowships of Cardiff University, Trinity Saint David’s College in Wales, Sarum College in Salisbury, and Southlands College in Roehampton. He is an honorary Canon of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, a Freeman of the City of London, a Knight of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, and an Officer of the Order of Christopher Columbus (Dominican Republic).
Griffiths holds the University of Evansville in extremely high regard and is honored to receive an honorary degree.
The University of Evansville also awarded long-time distinguished theater faculty member, John David Lutz, an honorary Doctor of Laws.